'Posh hot chocolate' brand Sloane's was launched in 2014 to make the drink more chocolately and luxurious than ever before. Now the product is exported as far as the USA, Australia and Hong Kong. We caught up with founder Brian Watt to chat about his exporting journey.
What does your company do?
We specialise in posh hot chocolate. We blend chocolates from around the world and make them into our unique chocolate pearls which melt in hot milk. We are now launching seasonal flavours like Pumpkin Spice which has sold very well to USA for Halloween.
Sir Hans Sloane launched his milk drinking chocolate recipe in London in 1689 as he was doctor to the King the drink became popular with the fashionable set in London, so this was the inspiration behind the brand.
When was your company launched, who by and why?
Sloane's launched in 2014 by me and a small team as we believed the big companies had fallen out of love with hot chocolate lovers as all their products were sugary powders. So, we launched with more cocoa so our hot chocolate tastes of real chocolate.
How long has the company been exporting?
We started with sales to Ireland in 2015 three years ago!
What do you currently export, and where to?
We sell our range of hot chocolate to the USA, Canada, Australia, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Romania.
What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?
Once we had really good sales through Waitrose we felt we had a story to tell overseas customers, so we went to Dubai and spoke with Spinneys (Waitrose’s partner in Dubai) and they listed our whole range.
What is the easiest part of exporting?
I think the best part, for me, is meeting lots of really interesting people on our travels.
And the most challenging part?
Ensuring you pick the right partner. You need to make sure you choose the right partner for your company because if you get this wrong, it can be very painful.
Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did you overcome them?
I had already visited over 60 countries and lived overseas twice so have been to most countries we are talking to. The best way around any issue is to visit your partner and listen to what they tell you about the market then visit as many stores as possible and speak to their owners to understand their issues
Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?
The DIT have been great, they have introduced us to several new contacts and their local team have verified customers who have contacted us
What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?
DO IT! Make sure you fully understand what makes you successful in your home market, then take that story overseas. Also I would say start with one market to get a feel for how it works, and then if it goes well you can branch out in to more.
Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Sounds crazy with the Brexit background but we are looking at the Nordic markets as we are sure they would love a posh hot chocolate. Our mission is to become the number one posh hot chocolate company!
Our BQ Bulletin emails will land in your inbox at 7.30am, Monday to Friday, with a mix of the latest local business news, national news, and features to inspire you. Sign up here!
Click here to read our privacy statement